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Best Cocktails West of Kenmore Sq.?

Which place(s) get your vote for serving the best cocktails west of Kenmore Square? By "best cocktails" I mean something approaching the creativity plus craftsmanship of Eastern Standard, Prezza or No.9 Park, though I know that nothing suburban is likely to be quite that good. I've been resorting to places like the Met Club, Aquitaine Bis and the Capital Grille but their drinks just don't cut it.

The geographic area I'm thinking of includes Brookline, Allston, Brighton, Chestnut Hill, Newton and Waltham. No suggestions in Cambridge/Somerville, please: it's too long a drive and parking tends to be a hassle to boot.

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  1. That's a pretty grim swath of suburbia to search for real cocktail craftsmanship. I don't think you'll find anything approaching ESK or No. 9 outside of Cambridge, where Green Street comes close. (B-Side always deserves an honorable mention for their seriousness and skills, but they don't do a lot of craft ingredients, and don't whirl the raw eggs).

    On the rung below that top one, there's Deep Ellum in Allston, which has surprisingly good, serious bartending for a place that is mainly a beer bar. The Alchemist has a bartender working some nights who's quite serious and good; the quality drops off quite a bit when he's not there. The Biltmore also does very good shaker drinks, including some worthy originals. Ariadne's bar can do good drinks, but the bartending is variable (but it has free parking, live music some nights, and very good food.) Silvane (sp?) at the Tuscan Grill is excellent, but I haven't been in for a cocktail there in quite a while, so I'm unsure whether he's still there or what nights. 51 Lincoln's bartending is awful, in my experience.

    Short of that, you're looking at the kind of places you've already outlined, which I agree are second-raters. There have to be some unsung local places in the near western 'burbs with talented bartenders that I'm missing. Sometimes an ace with the shaker turns up where you least expect them.

    9 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      You'll have to go find out for yourself, since this board generally dismisses Golden Temple in Brookline, but it has among the best martinis in town and, if you like your beer icy cold, this is the place. The bar is a pleasant place to eat.

      1. re: teezeetoo

        "Martinis" as in vodka and vermouth or "martinis" as in vodka-based cocktails ("pomegranate martini", etc.)? That is, do they only do the classic well or are there also inventive, balanced house-specialties?

        1. re: peelmeagrape

          they do both classic and noveau and a generous pour as well - oddly, they also have excellent specialty teas - their linden tea is the best i've had.

      2. re: MC Slim JB

        Thanks for the ideas. Some of these are places I've wanted to check out for a while, but have never visited (The Biltmore, Ariadne), another is one I'd never even considered (Deep Ellum), and some I've tried and thought were pretty good but not sensational (Tuscan Grill, the Alchemist). I'd been wondering about 51 Lincoln but the fact that the website doesn't mention a bar area or cocktail menu was keeping me away.

        Does anyone know how the cocktails at Lineage compare to the abovementioned spots?

        1. re: peelmeagrape

          I was at Ariadne recently and was not impressed by their bar.

          1. re: Blumie

            I must agree about Ariadne, and their martinis seem a bit short, just like their martini glasses.....

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          I'll chime in and second Deep Ellum and the Alchemist. Both are fun places that can have some great bartending. If Max is at Deep Ellum, he's wonderful at choosing what you might enjoy drinking.
          MC - What about Washington Sq Tavern? They have a nice looking cocktail menu, but I've never been.

          1. re: Bluebell

            My last few times at Washington Square Tavern, I have stuck to beer or wines by the glass, but I agree their cocktail list looks interesting, a bunch of originals.

            1. re: Bluebell

              WST has a great wine/beer selection and make/shake a great cocktail. They have some 'specialty' drinks on their menu but the frankly, they aren't my favorite...but when asked to make a drink off the menu (Sidecar, Pimm's Cup, etc.) that's where they excel. Not to mention it's a great atmosphere- for dinner or drinks. Can be very crowded on Thursday/Friday nights after 10pm.

          2. The Independent in Union Square has some really good cocktails and so does Casablanca in Harvard Square.

            2 Replies
            1. re: joebelt

              As I noted in my original post, Cambridge and Somerville suggestions are useless for my purposes.

              1. re: peelmeagrape

                Consider Union. Easy parking and off the beaten path. :)

            2. I'm more of a wine person, but the drinks at Tempo Bistro in Waltham looked fun. Anyone tried them? Martini list looks good.

              2 Replies
              1. re: bear

                I can attest that the espresso martini at Tempo is excellent (just had one Sat night). I usually order a cosmo with Belvedere and it is also excellent. We usually eat somewhere else on Moody and end up at Tempo for cocktails. BTW they also have PBR on tap!

                1. re: Duster17

                  And having recently moved to NE from Kentucky, brother-in-law was quite psyched to sample some Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

              2. Try the Biltmore in Newton. Some really good, inventive cocktails (and they even shared the recipes when I asked). Try the Gin Ginger.

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                The Biltmore
                1205 Chestnut St, Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464